Writing Routines…

So I’ve been thinking a lot about writing routines and how I can implement them in my own life.

I’m busy… I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that a time or two thousand times. But I also could do better with time management. Discipline is always something that I strive for, but tend to burn myself out on trying to be too strict. However, I’ve discovered that I need more time to write than what I have right now and the only way to find that time is to make the time.

I recently enrolled in Jessica Brody’s time management course for writers and I think the most significant thing I got out of it (besides a nifty word count tracker spreadsheet that ignites my competitive spirit) is the fact that I need to establish a writing routine.

For me, it’s not something I should do, but rather must do. If I’m going to be an actual legit writer who writes at least a book a year—while maintaining a full-time job, family, and social life—than I must establish a writing routine or I’ll fall flat on my face.

Jessica is big on the writing routine, even if it’s for short periods of time, which is good because it’s all I can give at the present. I’m thinking if I could just get in one dedicated hour in the morning before all the hassle of my day begins (and before I check work email or social media), then I can still write at night like I currently do, but it will be bonus words versus my only words.

So here’s what I’m thinking…

weekly writing routine

I won’t get in to all the tips Jessica gives (because you can just sign up for her class and get them all yourself… It’s super cheap!) but I really loved getting an insight into a successful author’s routine. I’m also interested to find out other writer’s routines. I’m going to be asking around, so I’ll post a follow up to this blog with some helpful tips! I’d also love to hear from you in the comments!

Should You Outline Your Novel?

I consider myself to be a very organized person, especially in my professional life. Running social media and digital marketing for a large entity, it’s kind of a must.

That organization flows over into parts of my personal life (though I’m NOT a cleaner, so get that out of your head) I have 3 elementary-aged kids who all play sports, and well let me tell you. It’s either be organized or suck as a mom.

So naturally, when it comes to writing, I’m more of a plotter. That is, until I actually sit down to write. I never understood what writers meant when they said, “the characters tell me what the story is about” until I got serious about writing. Now, instead of thinking of those people like dramatic overly creative hippies, I find that it’s actually quite true.

Thoughts and ideas come to you when you’re engaged in the act of creating. Twists and turns you could have never thought of when plotting, all of sudden pour out of your mind and you struggle to keep up and catch it all onto paper.

So is that to say you shouldn’t plot? 
No way!

Plotting is essential for me. It helps keep my pacing on pace. It helps me know where I’m going. It helps me make sure I’m not just meandering around the plot and filling the page with pretty words.

What does an outline look like for me? Something a little like this (this is obviously made up and not a book I’m working on):

  • story opens with Jill. Set the need for her to get up the hill to get the magical healing water for her sister. Magical water is guarded by scary/evil creatures. No one has ever gotten the healing water since her ancestors 300 years ago.
  • meets Jack. Lots of chemistry. Jack is sick himself, but doesn’t tell Jill.
  • Jill’s sister gets even sicker. She has to get up that hill and get the water.
  • Jack offers to help her.
  • Break into the town leader’s hut and steals the magical pail that Jill’s ancestors used hundreds of years ago to bring down the water.
  • the start up the hill and get sidetracked by an ogre
  • ogre invites them for tea,
  • almost eaten by ogre. Jill saves the day by smashing ogre with pail
  • Pail is broken now. Need to figure out a way to mend it.
  • Have to go back down the hill to mend the pail.
  • ogre’s brother finds them while they are waiting for pail to be mended
  • instead of killing them, he steals pail when he overhears them talking about magical properties of the well
  • they go after the ogre to get back their pail.
  • make it up the hill, almost dying from a pack of demon wolves that Jack and Jill slay.
  • Finds shriveled ogre dead at the opening of the cave where the magical water is. Looks like he was thrown out. Pail is by his side.
  • Picks up pail and goes in.
  • Finds an ancient witch who makes them pass through 3 tests.
  • Recognizes Jill and calls her by her ancestor’s name. Jill finds out that it was actually her great-great-great-etc grandmother who bested the witch, not her great-great-great-etc grandfather as legend says
  • Pass 2 tests, but the last test will require the sacrifice of someone you love
  • realizes she loves Jack and he loves her, and before she can stop him, he sacrifices himself to the witch.
  • Jill is able to get the water in the magical pail, and gets dying Jack down the hill where she has to choose whether to give the water to him or to her sister.
  • He tells her he was dying anyways and before she can stop him, he gives the water to the sister.
  • the witch appears says she will heal Jack if Jill promises to become the new guardian of the healing waters. Jill agrees and the witch heals Jack.
  • Jill has to be back up the hill in exactly one year. Jack vows to figure out a way to free her from her promise to the witch.

So as you can see, it’s basically just bullet points that guides me on my writing journey. WHO KNOWS what would actually happen if I wrote this story because, like I said above, these are just loose outlines and the story evolves.

That’s my favorite part about writing actually. The evolution of a story idea.

Writing is tangible magic and I get to be the wizard who wields it.

writing is tangible magic and I get to be the wizard who wields it.

How do you like to outline?

Drafting While Kids Are on Break

Drafting while your kids are on Christmas break is not easy.

I try to sneak away for a bit here and there, but let’s be honest, the holidays are about family and so writing time has to be compromised.

For me, when I need a few hours to get down some words, I tell the kids to not bother me unless someone is bleeding or choking (mine are old enough to do this) and I make sure it’s after a meal time. THEN… are you ready for some real talk?

I lock the door to my room and put my music on really loud.

So far, no one has died or suffocated or choked as a result of me writing for a few hours.

I call that a win.


Merry Christmas everyone!!

How to Revise with an Edit Letter: Part 2

If you’re following along, you’re going to want to make sure to do Part One of the revision process before you tackle this section. So after a week full of snow days and cabin fevered kids and husband (who was undoubtedly worse than the kids), Gv7vqZs it took me longer to get to phase two of my revision plan than I expected. But alas, I finished the next step. This is called the notecard phase. This is when you go through all the notes you made on your character/plot/setting pieces of paper and turn each one of those into a notecard with a corresponding chapter. Then I went through my edit letter from my agent and made individual notecards for her notes too. In the end, my table at Barnes & Noble looked like this and I had over a 100 cards: IMG_4233 80% of my notecards were plot related, but then I did have some that were character related as well, which brought on some character worksheets that I didn’t originally think I was going to do. I ended up creating in-depth bios with 3 minor characters that probably won’t make it into the story, but will absolutely affect the way I write them. I needed a better handle on their motivations and this is the best way to do that. I did it freehand and just sketched out their lives. It doesn’t have to be pretty, because it’s not going in the book. It’s just for you to get to know your character more. In doing this, one of my characters is changing a lot, which I like! Your notecards will be detailed and you’ll have several for each chapter, so just put them in chronological order. Or sometimes your notecard will just be you telling yourself this section sucks and you can do better: IMG_4232 Then I got all my notecards and organized them and put them in a nifty little box because I’m awesome like that and get a weird pleasure out of seeing things in order. This urge for order is unfortunately compartmentalized just to the professional side of my life and does not lend itself to house cleaning, but wouldn’t it be awesome if it did? I would basically be a super hero. IMG_4234 So that concludes the getting organized section of the revision process! Now on for Phase Three… the fun part when you get to actually start revising on the page! 🙂

How to Revise with an Edit Letter: Part One

My fabulous agent Kirsten did not miss a beat and just days after signing me, she spit out a pretty epic edit letter.

I’m not going to lie, when I read it I had a mixture of feeling like this:


and then this:


She had some very specific things she’d like to see addressed and although they aren’t huge, they are the kind of changes that have ripple effects. In other words, the first half of the book is going to get a pretty serious overhaul.

So how do you even begin to tackle a revision based on an edit letter?

Here is what I decided to do, part one.

First off, don’t do anything for a day or two. Keep reading the edit letter and start revising in your mind. I’m serious about this one. Just stew on it for a day or two.

For practical purposes, I pulled my revision plan together from three sources: the venerable Susan Dennard who’s writing advice is beyond amazing, Beth Revis who’s writing guide Paper Hearts is a must read for all writers and then one of my CPs Alexa Donne who has some pretty kick butt blog posts on revising.

The first thing I did was print out my entire MS and put it in a binder (though it’s also fun to get it bound!) I was trying to save on paper/printing costs, so I shrunk it down to 10pt font and put it in single space. That helped cut down the pages printed by over half. I could do that because I wasn’t actually looking to revise on the page, but just read.  I’m sure you could do this just by reading on your computer or maybe transferring it to your Kindle, but I wanted the option of scribbling on the page and I also revise a lot by hand. (Note: you’ll also need to revise your novel in 10pt/single space at the beginning because you’ll want your notes to match up, so keep that in mind.)

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 2.16.45 PM

I then read my edit letter probably 10-15 times. I wanted to get her suggestions down deep so that as I was reading through, I would know what to look for without having to reference the letter. The same goes for the plot/setting things she pointed out as well.

Then I had a separate blank sheet of paper for every main character (and plot relevant minor character) as well as a page for plot problems and setting problems.

As I read through my entire MS, I was looking for areas where I could deepen a character POV, flesh out a reaction, make the characters fuller. Instead of marking the manuscript, I would just mark it on the corresponding sheet. With plot/setting, I was looking at where I needed to implement my agent’s suggestions and would mark it down on the sheet. I also would mark paragraphs/dialogue in the MS that I didn’t like with “re-work.”

For example, on my plot page, I would write: “On page 47, get rid of “Roger” character and replace with Liam to tie in better with the Initiative.” For a character, I would write down, “Soften the Senator’s reaction on page 6, give him a moment where he is kinder to Willow in this scene.”

Note that I didn’t actually do any revising yet, I just plotted out on a broad scale where I would revise things.

So that is part one!

I’m writing this blog series as I go, so I’ll know what worked and what didn’t.

Up next on my plan? NOTECARDS 🙂